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[dupe] Canonical asks OVH to pay €1-2/mo/VPS. Else, prohibited to use the mark “Ubuntu” (twitter.com/olesovhcom)
123 points by hbogert on June 20, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 67 comments

OVH should really be more clear that their Ubuntu images are modified down at the kernel level, and are not "stock" Ubuntu. This is the first time I've ever heard about this.

Say what you want about software patents, or asserting copyright over an API, etc. But trademark law exists entirely to prevent confusion like this, and I think it's valid. Hosts should be required to loudly disclose that images are modified, or else they should get a licensing deal and have them certified by the trademark holder.

Users think they're installing "Ubuntu", and they aren't. That's not acceptable to me.

I manage a bare metal server rented at OVH, and when I discovered their kernel wasn't the stock one, I also found its last update was months before, without all the security patches released since then.

That's not advertised at all in their product pages, and it exposes you to a bunch of security issues elsewhere fixed.

To be fair, that's just the default setup. It's 2 commands to update it to the normal stock kernel.

I know and I did that as soon as I discovered they ship a different kernel.

The problem is they don't advertise "we ship an insecure kernel by default", and they call those insecure images "Ubuntu".

May I ask what are those 2 steps?

sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade -y

That wouldn't work (even if you should do that anyway). The stock kernel is in a separate package.

I agree. I thought I had installed ubuntu recently on ovh servers, and found many files/folders in `/sys/kernel` missing. I had to google around a bit to find out that when I installed Ubuntu, it wasn't actually Ubuntu, but OVH-modified Ubuntu. I ended up having 4 servers reinstalled with stock Ubuntu.

How does this work when Ubuntu package maintainers patch upstream packages? Do they arrange special trademark licensing terms with the upstream maintainer?

I think I'm apt-get installing super-foo-blah, but during installation it's actually being patched so is deviating from what upstream are really shipping [1].

As I understand it, Canonical advocate patching upstream packages (with the noble goal of improving compatibility with their platform) and keeping the package under the same name. Just as OVH et al are doing with Ubuntu itself.

[1] http://packaging.ubuntu.com/html/patches-to-packages.html

If those packages' names are under trademark and the terms says you can't ship modified versions of the package, they must either:

- Ask for the approval of the upstream developer

- Rename the package, as Debian did with Firefox/IceWeasel

The problem with the OVH images is their kernel lacks months of security patches, so they're advertising insecure images as "Ubuntu".

I absolutely agree that downstream packages have some level of responsibility to maintain up-to-date packages.

However, this alone isn't necessarily reason to prevent someone from distributing derived versions of your open source project using the original name.

If this was the case, Canonical would prevent people from shipping EOL'd versions of Ubuntu under any circumstances. If I ship an appliance with Ubuntu 10.04 (EOL 2013-05-09), it would have the same negative impact as shipping a patched 16.04 with no up-to-date patches or a similarly unpatchable kernel or core package.

Even if in this case the changes they make are damaging the system security, the trademark policy doesn't say anything about security or updates: you just can't ship unapproved changes in an image called "Ubuntu", regardless if those changes are secure or not.

Edit: typo

This is exactly the reason Iceweasel happened in Debian. Debian was applying security patches, Mozilla objected that the end product wasn't Firefox as distributed. I'm not exactly sure why Ubuntu didn't pick up the Iceweasel branding.

Upstream being Debian, afaik they explicitly have permissive clauses regarding trademarks.

Sorry, I should have been clearer. I mean upstream third party packages, not those that form the core of Debian itself. If I create a package which Debian ships unmodified, but it's then subsequently patched by Canonical and shipped with Ubuntu (or via its repositories) under the same name, I'd argue that I could (but possibly shouldn't) cry foul as Canonical are doing with VPS providers.

By uploading it to Debian I think you have to accept terms to match the rest of the system. You have to object at the source; once it's in Debian, then any downstream developer can do anything he wants with it, as long as it abides to Debian licensing terms.

If you don't accept the Debian terms, your package ends up in "nonfree" and I honestly don't know how that is managed downstream.

Yes, you could rightfully do it, and the package mantainer would probably rename the package or just remove it.

Digital Ocean does the same, it's even worse with DO because you run an old Kernel all the time.

On the newest images (FreeBSD, Debian 8 and Ubuntu 16.04) you aren't tied to the kernels they provide (and I think they ship the stock kernels by default in them, altough I haven't checked yet).

I agree though on older images going to the control panel/use the API to change the kernel is a big annoyance.

I totally agree with you, but how does the trademark licensing help with confusion in this case?

If they were to pay 1-2e/mo to use the trademark legally, wouldn't the confusion still exist? Or is the full story actually that they have to pay _and_ actually offer it as stock Ubuntu?

AFAIK they must certify their images, which means they should offer a stock or a stock-like image approved by Canonical.

Unfortunately the only source we currently have is that tweet, which isn't the clearest one.

Ubuntu's IP policies are public, and you're right, modified versions must be approved by Canonical: http://www.ubuntu.com/legal/terms-and-policies/intellectual-...

Keep in mind, as is mentioned in the previous discussion, this is only because OVH is distributing a modified version of Ubuntu.

As most hosts do. I've noticed the following from personal experience, but I'm pretty sure there are more out there:

- OVH modifies the kernel (though users can opt for stock kernel, losing integration into OVH's monitoring infrastructure).

- Scaleway modifies the runtime environment extensively, even on their bare metal servers, to provide integration / deep hooks into their APIs. They seem to be modifying the boot sequence, init system and replace the kernel.

I'm not sure what Canonical's goal is - protecting their brand from uncertified, unknown quality third party extensions? Or simply monetizing?

Either way, they should be careful not to be seen as a bully by the public for this kind of thing - they already have a pretty iffy reputation in the open source world, with their Unity desktop, Mir, upstart, Amazon integration, ... (I realize that most of these have been fixed or dropped - but they're an indication of intent).

They've clarified, in their intellectual property policy[1] that this is exactly as you speculate, for quality control in relation to use of their trademarks.

Canonical doesn't want someone to release a derivative which is unstable due to modification and call it "Ubuntu 16.04 LTS", therefore potentially resulting in blame being placed on them.

Regardless of personal opinion, it's an interesting situation considering the differing opinions on the separation between brand IP and source code IP.

[1] http://www.ubuntu.com/legal/terms-and-policies/intellectual-...

Perhaps OVH should simply call it Blue Fin Linux or something? Or Globe Linux?

Or are we talking recompilation of all the packages to remove the phrase 'ubuntu'? The latter would be much more complex. You are getting into CentOS territory with their 'North American Upstream Vendor' then.

Or maybe they should stop shipping kernels without months of security patches, and advertize their broken images as "Ubuntu".

Suppose OVH paid the $1 per month per VPS and Canonical therefore allowed the use of the Ubuntu trade mark. Would you be fine with that?

My point is that perhaps trade mark/copyright law isn't the best way to encourage vendors to update their products.

We don't even know what this 1€/instance is paid for: the only source we have is a tweet from the OVH founder. Maybe there was a discussion before, or maybe not, we're just speculating here.

My guess is the price is for certifying the images, which also means guaranteeing the kernel has all the security patches in it. That means OVH would be able to customize the kernel to integrate it in their control panel, and the customers would get a secure and not broken Ubuntu image.

The other option is to ship the stock image (and maybe put the integration in a .deb, as another person suggested here), and don't pay anything because you would be OK under the trademark policy.

What's a better way for Ubuntu to do that? Given the open-source nature of the product, the trademark is the one avenue they have, and it's reputation quite important to differentiate themselves.

Ubuntu is entirely in its rights to do this, from a legal and commercial point of view, regardless of their motives.

I wonder however what would happen if they pushed it too hard. Ubuntu has become the "default cloud OS" because of the freedom it granted and the quality it delivered at unbeatable prices. With a price tag attached, it gets less attractive; but what are the alternatives? Blessing a minor or hackier distribution? Fall back on Debian with its slow release cycle, or on Fedora with all its RedHat baggage?

As a customer I'm happy if Canonical enforces this, because it means cloud providers can't advertise as "Ubuntu" insecure images, as OVH is doing.

Besides OVH having pretty crappy support, it is worth noticing that Oles (the ovh ceo/owner) basically only tweets in French, despites having customers from all-over the world.

This is plain rude.

This time he tweeted in english just to make some noise.

But the truth is that OVH redistribuites a modified version of ubuntu, abusing of the Ubuntu trademark.

Canonical rightfully wants OVH to either stop using the Ubuntu trademark or pay canonical to certifiy that the OS ovh distribuites is an Ubuntu-grade ubuntu derivative. This is perfectly fine.

If OVH does not want to pay, OVH should just call their ubuntu-based OSes something like "OVH Linux".

BTW, 1-2 Eur/installatio is an insane price, I suspect that Oles is just lying about that pice.

> Besides OVH having pretty crappy support, it is worth noticing that Oles (the ovh ceo/owner) basically only tweets in French, despites having customers from all-over the world. This is plain rude.

Many US-American companies have customers all-over the world and still only tweet in English.

>> Besides OVH having pretty crappy support, it is worth noticing that Oles (the ovh ceo/owner) basically only tweets in French, despites having customers from all-over the world. This is plain rude.

> Many US-American companies have customers all-over the world and still only tweet in English.

And this is right.

English is the de-facto standard language is business and science.

It doesn't matter if your company is french, american, italian, brazilian or something else: you really SHOULD write/tweet in english, at least to your customers/clients.

https://twitter.com/OVH is in English.

@olesovhcom is the founder's semi-personal account where he tweets a lot of company related stuff, but it's not their official channel.

> It doesn't matter if your company is french, american, italian, brazilian or something else: you really SHOULD write/tweet in english, at least to your customers/clients.

I know lots of companies (for example for mechanical engineering in Germany) where the customers strongly prefer it if they are written to in their native language (in this case German).

No, really: Some companies learnt it the really hard way why they shouldn't try to advertize in English in Germany, see for example this German article: http://www.spiegel.de/unispiegel/wunderbar/denglisch-in-der-... (TLDR: The uneducated classes misundertand the slogans in really funny ways).

The good old "speak white" argument..

It's a french thing. Once I literally was told that the cafe "is closed" because I dared to speak english. It was Carcasonne fortress, midday, middle of summer, with hundred other people being served. Don't hold your breath

It really isn't a French thing to be mortified by people speaking English. Probably, you did something else to offend.

That said it doesn't hurt for bonjour to be the first word out of your mouth. It is France and they speak French after all. The same goes for hello in every other language in every other country on earth as well.

source: American who has lived in France.

The French are a proud people, especially concerning their language. If you try (and fail) to talk to people in French first, they'll generally be happy to switch to English. Just don't start out in English.

You say this like its a perfectly fine way of behaving?

You say this like it isn't? What makes English so special that everyone has to use it over their own language? How would you feel if someone were to approach you in French, not showing the slightest inclination to speak English, not even a "hello"?

So everyone should learn something of the language of every country they visit however shortly?

English is the 2nd language most people in the world knows so that's a natural language to use approaching people whose language you don't know.

English is not my native language. If someone visited my country I would expect them to speak to me in English, not learn my language unless they were going to settle here.

Note that Octave Klaba is not French. His mother tongue is Polish. Also, he is not CEO of OVH anymore (he switched to a CTO position last year).

> BTW, 1-2 Eur/installatio is an insane price, I suspect that Oles is just lying about that pice.

Do you have anything to back that up? Has he publicly lied before, do you know what they charge other hosts, or do you just dislike the guy?

a large percentage of his customers are french and many french do not speak english, in the same manner that many americans do not speak french. you do not want to alienate your core base.

he could use a comm officer who communicates in english and other languages though.

French are well known for protecting their language use and jealously dismissing English popularity taking every opportunity to speak French where they can get away with it ;)

English are well known colonialist trying to assimilate everything that's different ;)

May I suggest to call it GNU, for "GNU is not Ubuntu".

I think it's fair, but how much OVH charges for each VM? $5 per month? I think that's a bit too much (or they'll just slap the $1 as a "Canonical Fee" and be done with it)

> or they'll just slap the $1 as a "Canonical Fee" and be done with it

I could see them offering the following options:

* Ubuntu without OVH panel monitoring

* Ubuntu with monitoring (+1€/mo)

* Custom OVH Ubuntu-based distribution with monitoring (same as above but we can't call it "Ubuntu" without charging 1€ per month)

Not sure it would be fair, but that's the kind of thing they could do.

Why can't they offer stock Ubuntu + the monitoring stuff as a .deb? They can put up lots of instructions about how to enable panel integration. They could run their own apt repository too, which should satisfy anyone who wants to spin up instances via API and configure via some CM tool. Seems like this would satisfy all needs.

I second this. Also it means you don't have to examine the distribution after setting up a new box to find all the little things they have modified.

IMHO the problem is not if it's fair or not, but if Canonical's demand is grounded on juridically or not.

OVH is a huge user of open source, and, as far as I been told by several sources, gives very little back (for instance, they have a no open source contribution policy internally).

But I'd like to see the juridical arguments forbidding any hosting provider to propose a given trademarked distribution on their system.

IANAL, but as it has been pointed out, OVH distributes a modified version of Ubuntu, not (only?) a pristine copy. As such, that may be considered a material difference, which gives Canonical a claim against OVH. Quoting a ruling,

[T]he unauthorized (...) sale of materially different merchandise violates the Lanham Act because a difference in products bearing the same name confuses consumers and impinges on the local trademark holder’s goodwill.

But Canonical doesn't seem to have a problem with that... as long as they get paid.

The truth (IMHO):

OVH changes the ISOs but wants to call it Ubuntu because it's a huge brand.

Canonical smells blood in the water and wants money.

Nobody is an angel here.

Canonical does have a problem with that, which is why they require OVH and other re-distributors of modified versions to submit them for approval, for which they charge.

This is all in their IP policies: http://www.ubuntu.com/legal/terms-and-policies/intellectual-...

Canonical also provide a product for free that powers an enormous swathe of the internet

> they have a no open source contribution policy internally

Man, that's just evil. <adds company name to list of businesses never to patronise>

There's always Debian!

I honestly don't know why someone would run Ubuntu on the server rather than Debian. I did kinda like Ubuntu once upon a time for end-user computing (e.g. laptops & desktops), although eventually I gave up on it because it was too painful to customise. But why use it on a server? There's no need for the proprietary blobs it supports, and it's really not targeted at servers like Debian is.

>I honestly don't know why someone would run Ubuntu on the server rather than Debian.

Having just had this discussion at work, I can give you a few reasons:

* Canonical's ecosystem, including direct support for OpenStack and some homegrown tooling around it like Juju. Also Landscape and MAAS.

* 5 years of support on LTS images

* Ubiquity, specifically the fact that Ubuntu has enough popularity (well beyond Debian's) that most of its issues are well known, and it has broad 3rd party support

* Paid support on the base image (it's not like CentOS/RHEL where you need an entirely different OS to get paid support, you can just buy Ubuntu support)

* PPAs (which is really just some tooling on top of a DEB repo, but it's still useful)

I'm not sure what you mean by "targeted at servers" when http://www.ubuntu.com/download/server exists.

Ubuntu Server is definitively targeted at servers.

I use Debian on my servers, but one reason I know some companies used Ubuntu was because it had a five year LTS program. Debian only started theirs in 2014, and it's not handled by the main Security Team, which might make some people feel queasy.

Well, if I run a SaaS business on VPSs but it's only profitable if those cost $1 a pop, would OVH lower its prices just for me?


I've asked on Twitter if removing the option to have the ovh modified version of Ubuntu will be enough. I always have random bugs when I was using it anyway. And it's pretty hard to debug.

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